Barbara Tait is the Fitness Instructor at Belong Macclesfield. She’s passionate about the benefits of a fit and healthy lifestyle for older people, and works in the Belong exercise studio with a wide range of customers from inside the village and beyond.
“My background is one of exercise and rehabilitation, working in big gyms and as an independent consultant, but this job enables me to put new research into practice. I see the difference that guided exercise can make to older people, including those with dementia, Parkinson’s sufferers and stroke victims. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see residents progressing physically and gaining a new lease of life through regular exercise.
“I also work closely with other health professionals, such as GPs and physiotherapists to create exercise programmes that are personalised to people’s skills and abilities, and it’s really rewarding to see the difference this exercise makes to their wellbeing as they progress.
Start the day well
“I’m a firm believer in eating a healthy diet, and I can’t start my day without a good breakfast; porridge oats or cereal. This sets me up for a long day on my feet and gives me plenty of energy to keep going. I get into the office at around 8:00am and usually spend an hour working through emails and paperwork. There are always fundraising activities and walks to organise, so organising this side of things is an important part of my job.
“My first appointments tend to be people from the community, who I see between 9:00am and 10:00am, Mondays to Thursdays. Appointments with residents begin at 10:00am, when they are at their most alert and energetic. These sessions finish at around 1:00pm and then I see some private referrals whilst our residents are having lunch.
“Sessions with Belong residents take place again between 2:00pm and 3:30pm and after these I usually go and do some light stretching and mobility exercises with residents on the households.
Healthy eating habits
“Being on my feet all day and never sure of when I’ll get a gap in my schedule mean that it’s important for me to keep my energy levels up. So I constantly eat fruit throughout the morning and then tend to have either soup or salad for lunch, nothing stodgy. With such a busy schedule and customers regularly popping in to chat to me about their exercise routines, I have to be really flexible. I try to stick to food that is healthy, yet quick and easy to prepare to fit in around my appointments.
Exercise and everyday life
“There’s a lot of new research showing that regular exercise is known to help older people to keep healthy, energetic and independent for longer. Having the exercise studio in the Belong village means that our customers have access to a modern suite of equipment, in addition to “on tap” advice and help in developing their individual exercise plan.
“We encourage all our residents to keep active and enjoy exercise and I also plan fundraising activities and walks around local areas of beauty such as Macclesfield Forest. This might involve an exercise schedule to help residents to gradually improve their fitness and confidence ahead of the outing.
“When I get home in the evening I’m often quite weary, but I like to do a light workout to maintain my own fitness levels; I live in the countryside so a good walk is always refreshing after a day indoors. A real treat for me at the end of the day is a nice glass of red wine with dinner.”